McDonnel History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The age-old Hebrides islands and the west coast of Scotland are the ancestral home of the McDonnel family. Their name comes from the personal name Donald. the surname is derived from the Gaelic Mac Dhomhnuill, which means son of Donald; it is a form of the surname MacDonald.

Early Origins of the McDonnel family

The surname McDonnel was first found in Inverness, where the origins of this name can be traced back to Somerled, Regulus of the Isles, who evicted the Norsemen from the Western Isles during the 12th century. From him is descended John Macdonald, first Lord of the Isles, and it was MacDonald's younger son, Ranald, who was the progenitor of Clanrald, which includes the families of Moidart, Morar, Knoidart and Glengarry. The MacDonells are from this last branch. It is from Ranald's son, Donald, that the MacDonell's take their name (Son of Donald). There is also a branch of the MacDonells that claim Ranald's other son, Alistair, as its progenitor (the Keppoch branch).

Early History of the McDonnel family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McDonnel research. Another 376 words (27 lines of text) covering the years 1411, 1575, 1672, 1647, 1745, 1749, 1794, 1812 and 1790 are included under the topic Early McDonnel History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McDonnel Spelling Variations

Medieval spelling was at best an intuitive process, and translation between Gaelic and English was no more effective. These factors caused an enormous number of spelling variations in Dalriadan names. In fact, it was not uncommon to see a father and son who spelled their name differently. Over the years, McDonnel has been spelled MacDonnell, MacDonnel, McDonnell, MacDonell and others.

Early Notables of the McDonnel family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early McDonnel Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the McDonnel family to Ireland

Some of the McDonnel family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 118 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States McDonnel migration to the United States +

Scottish settlers arrived in many of the communities that became the backbones of the United States and Canada. Many stayed, but some headed west for the endless open country of the prairies. In the American War of Independence, many Scots who remained loyal to England re-settled in Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Scots across North America were able to recover much of their lost heritage in the 20th century as Clan societies and highland games sprang up across North America. Early immigration and passenger lists have documented some of the first McDonnels to arrive on North American shores:

McDonnel Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Oneal McDonnel, who landed in Virginia in 1696 [1]
McDonnel Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • William McDonnel, who arrived in Virginia in 1723 [1]
McDonnel Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John McDonnel, who arrived in New York, NY in 1817 [1]
McDonnel Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Bernard McDonnel, aged 24, who arrived in New York in 1920 aboard the ship "Columbia" from Glasgow, Scotland [2]
  • Martin McDonnel, aged 20, originally from Lettergesh, Ireland, who arrived in New York in 1920 aboard the ship "Kaiserin Augusta Victoria" from Liverpool, England [3]

Australia McDonnel migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

McDonnel Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Alexander McDonnel, English convict who was convicted in Portsmouth, England for life, transported aboard the "Atlas" on 16th January 1816, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [4]

New Zealand McDonnel migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

McDonnel Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Margaret Mcdonnel, British settler travelling from London, UK with 1 child aboard the ship "Assaye" arriving in Auckland, North Island, New Zealand on 26th December 1874 [5]


The McDonnel Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Per mare, per terras
Motto Translation: By water and land.


  1. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  2. ^ "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J663-PMG : 6 December 2014), Bernard McDonnel, 29 Jul 1920; citing departure port Glasgow, arrival port New York, ship name Columbia, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  3. ^ "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J66P-7TT : 6 December 2014), Martin McDonnel, 09 Aug 1920; citing departure port Liverpool, arrival port New York, ship name Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  4. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 14th July 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/atlas
  5. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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